SL Benfica have been crushing the first half of the season in Liga NOS. Bruno Lage’s side won thirteen of their fourteen matches and only lost at home against FC Porto. Before this match, they were four points clear of second-placed FC Porto, who would have hoped that Vitória Guimarães could get at least one point out of this match.
Vitória Guimarães have been one of the most attractive playing teams in Portugal and they were probably the best team of their group in the Europa League, but they have not been rewarded for it at all as they got knocked out of the group stage, finishing in fourth place with just five points out of six games. In the league, Vitória SC sit in fifth place, three points behind fourth-placed Famalicão and five points behind third-placed Sporting Lisbon.
Vitória Guimarães lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Pedro Henrique and Edmond Tapsoba forming the central duo. João Teixeira and Lucas Evangelista formed a double pivot in front of Pêpê, who played as a central defensive midfielder. Leo Bonatini played as a lone striker. On the wings, Hanin and Davidson formed a duo on the left-hand side of the pitch while Victor García and Marcus Edwards formed a duo on the right-hand side of the pitch.
SL Benfica played in a 4-4-2 formation with Rúben Dias and Ferro forming the central duo. Adel Taarabt and Gabriel Pires formed a double pivot in front of them while Chiquinho and Carlos Vinícius played as strikers. On the right-wing, Tomás Tavares and Pizzi formed a duo, while Cervi and Álex Grimaldo formed a duo down the left-wing.
The problems of Benfica in the build-up
In possession, wide midfielders Cervi and Pizzi played as wingers which meant that Bruno Lage’s side played with four attackers in possession. This lead to the fact that Benfica only had two players down the middle and that Vitória outnumbered them in the centre of the field. Benfica were forced to use Tomás Tavares and Alejandro Grimaldo in the build-up often.
When an analysis is being made of the passes that Benfica gave, it can be seen that Tomás Tavares gave 48 passes and completed 40 of them, while Grimaldo completed 30 out of 37 passes. In total, right centre-back Rúben Dias played 19 passes to Tómas Tavares, which was the highest number of passes played. Tómas Tavares had the highest number of offensive duels for Benfica as well, as he had 10 offensive duels against Vitória. He only won 3 of them.
Most of the time, the moment that Tavares received the ball was used to put pressure on Benfica. In the image down below, it can be seen that Vitória played compact and were close to their direct opponent. This often resulted in Vitória recovering possession, or Benfica getting a throw-in. In total, Vitória had 25 recoveries in the opposition half against Benfica’s 14 recoveries in the opposition half. This also led to the fact that Benfica had to play a lot of long balls as well. The back four and Gabriel played 35 long passes in total.
Vitória tried to pass it out from the back and used a 3-4-3 formation in doing so. Whenever the ball was on the left-hand side of the pitch, Lucas Evangelista would drift wide, opening up space for Davidson (left-winger). Vieira’s side made good use of the passing abilities of Pedro Henrique and Davidson was found very often.
When playmaker Pêpê had the ball in the defensive third, both wingers would tuck inside, while both full-backs played very high up the pitch. This fluidity in the build-up ensured that either the wingers or the full-backs had the space to receive the ball. However, Benfica did well to let this happen high up the pitch, which means that Vitória had a lot of space to cover before they reached Odysseas.
It was clear that the tactics of Vitória were to find Davidson or Marcus Edwards in the halfspaces and try to create space for the wingers. This succeeded, as Davidson had 17 offensive duels and Edwards had 21 offensive duels in total. The next highest number was Pêpê, who only had 7 offensive duels.
Role of Pêpê
Pêpê had a very important role in this match, as he was the playmaker of the team. Pêpê always offered an outlet and switched sides very easily. Whenever Pêpê received the ball in the midfield, it was the sign for the full-backs to make a run into space.
In total, Pêpê had by far the most actions and the most passes. Pêpê had 102 actions and gave 76 passes. The midfielder had 10 recoveries as well, because of his good positioning.
Benfica tried to defend up the pitch as high as possible, but were often forced to sit deeper. Lage’s side defended in a 4-4-1-1 formation and they tried to stay as compact as possible. As well as what Vitória did, they tried to make sure that the centre was closed. However, as mentioned before, Lucas Evangelista often drifted wide, attracting a Benfica player to leave his central space which opened up a gap for Davidson. This didn’t lead to any danger, because Davidson did not play well. In total, Davidson lost 12 out of 17 offensive duels.
It can be seen in the xG dynamics that Vitória only created one really big chance and some smaller chances and that Benfica only created four smaller chances. These smaller chances of Vitória mainly came because of the individual skills of Marcus Edwards. The winger from England outplayed Alejandro Grimaldo a few times and created some chances due to his excellent dribbling.
It can be concluded that Ivo Vieira’s side did well to put pressure on Benfica and to create space for their main men. However, the front three, apart from Marcus Edwards, did not play to their full potential which made it hard for Vitória to score a goal. On the other side, Bruno Lage’s side did well to score one of their few chances and to keep Vitória away from their goal.
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